Four men went on trial in Manhattan this week, accused of plotting to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes. The four—James Cromitie, Onta Williams, David Williams IV, and Laguerre Payen—were arrested in May 2009 and charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and attempting to use missiles to kill U.S. officers and employees.
The government alleges that in June 2008, Cromitie told an informant working with the FBI of his anger that Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan were being killed by the U.S. military. Cromitie expressed interest in dying a martyr and in doing "something to America." Beginning in October 2008, Cromitie and the informant began meeting at a house in Newburgh, New York that was under FBI surveillance.
The four allegedly discussed their desire to attack a variety of targets in New York, including planes at an Air National Guard base and a Bronx synagogue. Cromitie asked the informant to provide explosives and surface-to-air missiles. In April 2009, Cromitie, Payen and the Williamses selected a synagogue and Jewish community center they planned to target.
Prosecutors said the FBI provided the men with a Stinger surface-to-air missile that was incapable of being fired, along with three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) containing inert plastic explosives. The defendants were told the weapons had been supplied by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a designated Foreign Terrorist organization based in Pakistan. Cromitie allegedly expressed interest in joining the group in order to carry out jihad.
The four "jumped at the opportunity without hesitation" to attack military planes and synagogues, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Hickey said in opening arguments. Hickey told jurors they would watch a video of the defendants praying for success before they drove to the Riverdale section of the Bronx to carry out their plan in May 2009.
Hickey stated that on one tape, Cromitie could be heard telling Shahed Hussain, the informant, that the "best target in new York had already been hit" – an apparent reference to the World Trade Center. Cromitie also said he wanted to hit another target like a military transport plane or the George Washington Bridge.
"Above all, Cromitie said he wanted to hit a synagogue," Hickey said.